Monday, April 25, 2005

Washington's Hiding from Americans

Washington's using 9/11 and the threat of future terrorist attacks to hide information that used to be open to the American people. On top of that -- no one's tracking the trend to classify material. It's not just the President or military brass that can break out the "Classified" stamp. Low level bureaucrats have power, too.

Among the things now on the list:

  • The Defense Department phone directory -- formerly available at the Government Printing Office, now "For Official Use Only"
  • The EPA's web-based data base -- formerly warning Americans about the dangers posed by nearby chemical plants (a reaction to the Bhopal disaster). Fear trumps the 1986 Emergency Planning & Community Right to Know Act
  • The Justice Department rectroactively classified news releases it'd already made public -- suddenly deciding the releases already sent to TV, radio, and newspapers now present an "unwarranted invasion of personal privacy"

The fear is a boon to rubber stamp makers. It's not just "Top Secret" and "Classified" being slapped on documents that were once for your eyes as well. Washington has cooked up as many as 60 designations to hide information from you. Terms like "For Official Use Only" and "Sensitive but Unclassified."

And more than 4,000 bureaucrats have the power to use the stamps. I'd give you a list -- but it's probably "Not for Public Dissemination." (Boston Globe)

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